Comic wants help paying the cost of his sick joke | Crowdfunding plea in freedom of speech battle

Comic wants help paying the cost of his sick joke

Crowdfunding plea in freedom of speech battle

Comedian Mike Ward has launched a crowdfunding appeal to pay his legal costs after being fined for cracking a bad-taste joke against a disabled teenager.

Montreal’s Human Rights Tribunal ordered the controversial comic to pay Jérémy Gabriel $35,000 (£20,000) for the hurt caused, and another $7,000 (£4,000) to Gabriel’s mother, Sylvie.

However, Ward has refused to pay,  and plans to launch an appeal.

He says his stance has pushed his legal costs up to $93,000 (£54,000) which he is now hoping to cover from his fans and supporters. 

Within a few hours, he was almost a quarter of the way there.

Writing on GoFundMe, Ward said: ‘Some are portraying me as a free speech hero, others as a coward that made fun of a disabled child.  The truth lies somewhere in the middle.  

‘I told a joke. Was it in bad taste? Yes. Comedians should be allowed to tell jokes, even crass, hurtful ones. Hurt feelings shouldn't dictate what a comedian can or can not do on stage.

‘I've already spent 93 thousand dollars to make sure I don't have to pay 42K... I'm either really bad at math or I take free speech pretty goddamn seriously.’

He said any money raised in excess of his legal fees will go to a fund to help the next comedian who falls foul of the same laws.

Ward is not short of his own resources, as reports say his last Quebec tour grossed more than $5million.

The jokes that landed him in trouble  were aimed at Gabriel, now 19, who was born with a skull deformity called Treacher Collins syndrome. He became well-known in Quebec after he was flown to Rome to sing for Pope Benedict in 2006.

One gag in Ward s’eXpose tour and 2012 special was about Gabriel getting so much attention over his condition but ‘now, five years later, and he's still not dead! ... Me, I defended him, like an idiot, and he won't die!".’

Justice Scott Hughes found that the French-language routine went beyond ‘the limits that a reasonable person must tolerate in the name of freedom of expression’.

Ward is heading to the Edinburgh Fringe next week to perform a show about his freedom of speech battles.

Published: 27 Jul 2016

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